As records go, the 36-year old record of 46-days, 8-hours and 36-minutes of Running Across America by Frank Giannini Jr is a classic. It’s the stuff of legends and it is actually one of the oldest records in the Guinness Book of Records. Well, it was one of the oldest records until Pete Kostelnick came along earlier this year and put the record at a whole new level.
As records go, this one started with little fan fair but Pete came to the challenge with a solid resume, he was the two-time winner of the Badwater 135. His last victory coming just months before his Run Across America.
Ironically, Pete says that had he been a skinny kid he may have not even become a runner, “I got into marathon’s about exactly eight years ago when I was 21. I did the Marine Corps marathon, really it’s just a test to myself, to get in shape, and drop a few pounds, there was really no competitive aspect to it for me, but that was where it all began. I tell people if I was naturally skinny I probably wouldn’t even be in this sport.”
Running over 70-miles a day for 42-days takes some mental and physical focus. In a recent interview, Pete said one of his secrets was running twice a day in training and accumulating weekly training mileages of 200+ miles. “I work a normal day job from eight to five, but what I would do this year in particular with the 200-mile training weeks was I’d really wake up at 5am, and be running out the door by usually 5:15. I’d put in about two hours of running before work, so I’d get usually about 14 to 16 miles in, nothing crazy paced. I don’t really do really much of any tempo training. Then after work I would go straight to the gym usually, and do two hours of treadmill running, usually about another 14 to 16 miles… on the weekend is where I do the longer continuous training where I’ll do a lot of times 30 to 50 miles training runs straight through.”
Running 70+ miles a day is a phenomenal physical and mental challenge, it’s difficult to comprehend that it is possible, but Pete has proven how remarkable the human body is. At 29-years old maybe Pete is in that prime age target where fitness and the body’s ability to recovery is optimum?
Hoka One teammate, ‘Speedgoat’ Karl Meltzer, who just recently set a new FKT on the Appalachian Trail confirmed that Pete was on a whole new level. “He’s done it the right way,” said Karl. “He started under the radar and he picked up momentum as the journey progressed. He will have been in pain for sure but he maintained those big days!”
In the first week everything looked a little fragile as Pete pushed too hard, too soon covering 450-miles. He paid the price for the high mileage and on day 7 he took one full day off.
In retrospect, that day’s rest may have proven to be one of the most crucial days on this long 3100-mile journey. Tendonitis, aches, pains, tight muscles, sore hamstrings, swollen knee, tight hips and so many more niggles was potentially going to break Pete. “I’ll admit I went out way over my head in terms of mileage,” Pete said. “It was good because looking back, I’m glad I did that, it really taught me a lesson early and I really latched on to that lesson that I had to be sensible.”
“It happens,” says Karl. “But the body is a remarkable thing, one day you feel lousy and then the next day you feel great. The pain travels and moves around and let’s be clear, when you run this type of mileage day-after-day you just become numb.”
Tracie Phan (Team Manager) commented that Pete got stronger as the days passed and it’s something Pete also confirmed, “It’s all about getting into a rhythm and routine. I love the terrain to be constant and smooth and if I have runners along to talk too, the miles can fly past. Ironically, the latter miles were some of the toughest in Pennsylvania, not because of fatigue but because of the terrain.”
A typical day started around 0400 and Pete covered in the region of 40-miles before taking a break to eat. Back out on the road, more miles would pass with an ideal daily target of 70-miles with an aim to finish around 5pm. “This is crucial for a successful attempt,” Karl confirmed. “Finishing early evening allows for quality rest, recovery, massage and it also means that eating and drinking is not compromised, you need to get those calories in!”
Peter linked the City Halls of San Francisco and New York in a stunning time of 42-days and 6-hours and the previous record holder was there to welcome him, Frank Giannini Jr. I wonder, could anyone break this new record?
“I would definitely welcome it,” said Peter. “Because one thing I learned from Frank was that he was so gracious to me when he handed the baton over in New York City. If someone goes for the record, I would love to see it. I think there are people that are definitely qualified, the interesting thing about this type of run and the reason I did it now rather than a few years from now is that, it’s a huge undertaking personally and even professionally to get the time off to do it from work.”
The record books have a new chapter and Pete Kostelnick will be remembered for a long time to come. I personally see this record lasting for a long time just as Frank’s record stood for 36-years. The big question now is what is next for Pete, many people in the ultra-running community are interested to see?
“I’ll do some training and I’ll run through the winter, but I if I need 2/3 months early to get back to my regular running again I’ll be okay with that. I don’t really have any big races planned until hopefully in the spring and summer of 2017.”
Photo Credits: © Zandy Mangold & © Larry N Marsh